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Bendik, Shepherd Rank Among USA's Top 40

January 2, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Liberty's Kolby Shepherd (left) and Melinda Bendik both ranked among the top 40 Americans in their respective events in 2011.

Liberty redshirt seniors Melinda Bendik and Kolby Shepherd each ranked among the top 40 Americans in their respective events for 2011, as listed in the February 2012 issue of Track & Field News magazine. Additionally, 1998 Liberty graduate Josh Cox and former Flames distance coach Derek Scott also appear within the publication's year-end listings.

Each athlete's 2011 ranking and season highlights is listed below, in alphabetical order.

Melinda Bendik – An Odessa, Texas native, Bendik redshirted the 2011 outdoor track & field season, but continued her improvement in the hammer throw and finished the year ranked No. 37 among American women in the event. Bendik's top hammer mark of the year was her winning throw of 198-3 at the Radford Invitational on April 29. That would have broken her own school record by nearly 15 feet if she had been representing Liberty.

Josh Cox – Cox continues to excel on the distance running scene well into his 30s. He ranked No. 13 on the U.S. men's marathon list for 2011, thanks to his 2:17:32 effort at the P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona Marathon, Jan. 16 in Phoenix, Ariz. Cox kept running after crossing the finish line that day and went on to improve his own American 50K record to 2:43.45. That time was just seven seconds off of the world 50K record, which has stood since 1988. Cox is currently concluding preparations for his fourth appearance in the U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, which will be contested Jan. 14 in Houston, Texas.

Derek Scott – Scott not only coached Liberty's distance runners during the 2011 outdoor track & field season, but posted some impressive performances of his own. Previously known best for his ability in the 1,500 and mile events, Scott made a successful transition to the steeplechase in 2011. His fastest steeplechase clocking of the year, his 8:31.52 winning effort at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 14, placed him No. 9 on the U.S. year-end list. Track & Field News ranked Scott as the No. 10 U.S. men's steeplechase performer for the year, based upon his season as a whole. Scott also finished ninth in the steeplechase final at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and came in sixth at the Pan American Games.

Kolby Shepherd – Like Bendik, Shepherd's top mark of 2011 came while redshirting. The Dublin, Ga., native pole vaulted a career-best 17-7.25 indoors to win the Hokie Invitational title while competing unattached, Jan. 22 in Blacksburg, Va. That tied him with Princeton's David Slovenski for 32nd place on the U.S. men's list for the year. During the outdoor campaign, Shepherd cleared 17-6.5 at the Texas Relays on April 9, tying Todd Pettyjohn's long-standing program record. Shepherd then went on to pole vault at the 2011 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, tying for 20th place.

Bendik, Shepherd and the rest of their Liberty teammates will resume the 2011-12 indoor season Jan. 18, when they travel across town to compete in Lynchburg College's Hornet Sprints, Jumps and Throws Challenge. The one-day meet is slated to begin at 6 p.m.